Global Marketing

Consumer Behavior Influences: USA vs. South Africa

Consumer Behavior Influences: USA vs. South Africa

In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I had the unique opportunity to study abroad for six months at the University of Cape Town. I absolutely loved my time there and I look back on my semester there as the best time of my life. It was the first time that I have ever lived in another place other than Orange County, and the cultural difference was hard for me to adapt to at first. But overall, I learned so much about the people of Cape Town and got to understand more about the country’s deep history. You can read my travel blog by clicking here!

For this blog post, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the consumer behavior differences between the Americans and South Africans. This blog post will examine the purchasing decisions that both groups would have to consider when deciding to purchase an Apple Watch. The product was very popular when first introduced to both markets, however different segments of the market purchased the Apple Watch when comparing South Africans to Americans. You can read my observations below on what I believe the purchasing decisions would be for both groups.

The key characteristics that would influence my consumer behavior in the decision to buy the Apple Watch would be my cultural influences as well as social and personal factors. The American culture places a lot of importance on material possessions as a means of achieving the “American Dream.” Many people in America would have a strong desire to own the Apple Watch in order to show their status and not necessarily because they believe that the Apple Watch will fill a need.

However, compared to the Generation Y in the USA, this age category of under 26 spends the least out of all of the age groups in South Africa. This age category in South Africa may not feel the necessity to own the Apple Watch as much older professionals in the workforce, who would most likely benefit more from the communication convenience features that the watch offers. Someone’s social class would also have a large influence on whether they would be able to afford the watch. Only a small minority South Africa’s population is upper class and those who have just reached the upper class may feel more of a need to express it with an Apple Watch.

South Africa's Income Disparity is the Highest in the World

Social factors such as the reference group I am a member of or the reference groups that I aspire to be in can influence my purchasing decision. If many members of my family or social group are strong Apple supporters and speak positively about the Apple Watch, it can positively influence me to want to own the watch (my parents are both Samsung fans, but I recently converted my mom to the iPhone!) If the members of the social group I aspire to be apart are all wearing the watch, it could make me want to buy the watch based on their influence. Personal factors such as my occupation, relationship status, and economic situation can also have an impact on whether I choose to purchase the watch. Another question I would evaluate is whether wearing an Apple Watch would pose a security concern for if I was living in Cape Town. A thief may not be able to identify if a regular watch I am wearing is worth $20 or $2000, but wearing an Apple Watch is very identifiable and can make me a potential target for mugging. 

The marketing of the Apple Watch in the South African market is targeted towards the innovators, who do not mind taking risks trying new products, and early adopters, who adopt new ideas before the average person. The profile of the consumer who will be the first to buy the Apple Watch can be projected as high income, who are educated, have disposable income, and few financial responsibilities to provide for the family.  The segment of the South African market with the largest amount of spending power is between the ages 36 and 55. The target profile of the Apple Watch consumer would be in this age group who are professionals and are motivated to be on the “cutting edge” of technology innovations. This product would also appeal to individuals who want to show off their economic status with an expensive piece of wearable technology.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on the consumer behaviors of South Africans versus Americans!